When is a conference game not a conference game?
Whenever the ACC says it isn't.
The option of playing conference opponents as non-conference games was one of the more novel ideas that surfaced at the recent ACC spring meetings, as conference schools struggle with the logistics and dynamics of future scheduling options, given the league's 14-team roster and its partnership with Notre Dame.
The concept is not foreign to the ACC, where baseball teams have on occasion played games against league opponents that rotate off their schedules. Earlier this season, rivals Miami and Florida State - who did not face each other in league play - played a three-game series at Tallahassee.
North Carolina had a mid-season game scheduled at Durham against NC State, though that game was rained out and not rescheduled.
The option of playing non-league games against conference opponents would possibly satisfy concerns of a program like Syracuse, which, by being assigned to the Atlantic Division, will have little opportunity to play Coastal Division teams like Miami.
"Everything's on the table," Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross told ESPN.
"I think all the coaches felt like playing each other more, if there was a model for that, we'd be open to it," NC State coach Dave Doeren said. "When we don't have to play Notre Dame, playing Duke or Virginia or somebody from the Coastal that we don't play will be a discussion we want to have."
Under the current set-up, it was noted that N.C. State will play Notre Dame, which is on a three-year rotation, more often than it will play next-door-neighbor Duke.
Another option that could come to the forefront is a novel 3-5/5 model propose by the Raleigh News & Observer, in which each school would have three permanent partners, and then would rotate, playing five additional teams in one year, and the other five in the next.
Brandon Rink explained the concept more thoroughly in an article earlier this month:
'The ACC has already petitioned the NCAA to “deregulate” conference championship game rules, which currently call for a minimum of 12 teams and representatives of each division in the final.
One model tossed around is pitting the conference’s top-two teams regardless of division, which would then make divisions kind of pointless.
Another that could gain some traction with the 14-team ACC and momentum for better rotation is: three permanent opponents and two groups of five for each team that rotate home-and-home every two years (or every other).
Raleigh’s News & Observer laid out reasons for the three-by-five scheme and at least one way it could be configured.
Joe Giglio had Clemson’s three partners as Florida State, Georgia Tech and Virginia – playing N.C. State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Miami in one rotation and UNC, Duke, Syracuse, Boston College and Pitt in the other.
It would require the ACC to break the mold, which they can’t currently by NCAA rules, but for a league as unwieldy as any after expansion, some changes in that legislation would present a far better solution than the 6-1-1.'
Stay tuned on this one. Depending on how things unfold with NCAA deregulation, it's likely that more changes are ahead.
Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc